All Fun and Games

Posted 25 January 2022

Do you remember playing on the Nintendo Game Boy? Perhaps you worked on a Sinclair ZX Spectrum or were a Space Invaders arcade legend. Whatever your history, if you’re old enough to remember the internet dial-up tone, then you’re officially an immigrant – a digital immigrant.

That’s the title given to those of us who grew up before the digital age and now marvel at smartphones. To those of you who are younger, congratulations – you are digital natives with in-built technical wisdom. You may even have made a TikTok.

Immigrant or native, we need to step up because the children around us are experiencing an ever-changing digital world and it is our job to help them navigate it safely. As amazing as it is, sometimes the internet isn’t all fun and games.

With that in mind, Safer Internet Day 2022 is happening on 8th February. This year, the theme is ‘All Fun and Games?’ and it aims to help children and young people explore respect and relationships online. This is a great challenge and we’d like to #PlayYourPart by giving you some tips and advice to help anyone in your care. Social media, online gaming, Zoom and Google give us so much, but they are not always used for good. Trolling, grooming, revenge porn, hacking and fraud are all out there too.

To help any children in your care stay safe, check how they are using the internet. Take an interest in what videos they watch, which apps they are using and what games they are playing. Ask if you can play a game with them or watch them in action – this will open-up a natural dialogue. The NSPCC has great advice on setting parental controls and Common Sense Media is a goldmine for app information. Above all, remind them that no matter what, if they are worried about anything then they can talk to you – even if they have broken the rules.

With regards to respect and relationships, suggest your child only put online what they would be happy for you, their teacher or even their future employer to see. Encourage them to treat people with the same respect and boundaries they would in ‘real life’, speaking with kindness. What we say digitally WILL affect how people view us. Equally, make sure your child knows they deserve the same treatment back. If someone is pressuring them, bullying or making them feel uncomfortable they should tell an adult, or use platform measures to report that person.

Gaming relationships can be especially precarious. Users of all ages can interact, but remain strangers masked by screens. Encourage your child to follow a few precautions so their relationships can stay safe and fun. Usernames should never include their full name, mobile number, date of birth, school or address. This information should never be shared with anyone they only know online. Profile pictures should ideally be avatars and privacy settings regularly checked. They should also remember people may not be who they claim and never share nudes or other explicit photos online, or agree to meet someone they don’t know in the physical world.

The digital world will never be all fun and games, but by teaching children in our care to use it safely, we can help them to avoid the negatives. If you want any more advice on this subject, please contact us – we like knowing you’re safe.